The payment cuts to physicians who provide life-saving medical imaging services presumably are being used to offset the costs of preventing an across-the-board 4.4 percent cut in Medicare physician payments in 2006.
The House has an opportunity to reject these arbitrary cuts to physicians who depend on medical imaging to effectively diagnose and treat their patients. The 4.4 percent cut in Medicare physician payments must be halted, but not on the backs of the very physicians whom Congress is trying to help.
"The imaging cuts included in the budget package set a bad precedent and were included without a fair and open debate in Congress," said Pamela S. Douglas, M.D., F.A.C.C., president of the American College of Cardiology (ACC). "This year, Congress began an important dialogue on paying physicians for the quality of care they provide to Medicare beneficiaries. We know that mechanisms like appropriateness criteria will help assure the proper utilization of medical imaging services. Instead of eliminating the flawed sustainable growth rate formula and examining medical imaging in a thoughtful way, conferees, desperate for savings, simply took an axe to imaging without consideration of what cuts will do to access and, coincidently, volume."
The budget reconciliation bill was passed by the U.S. Senate by a 51-50 vote. Due to changes made to the bill by the Senate, it was referred back to the House of Representatives where it awaits a vote. The ACC is calling on House lawmakers to reject these ill-advised cuts, and to work with physicians in 2006 to reform physician payment policy.